Thursday, December 22, 2011

Still Waiting for the Revolution

'History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce' - Karl Marx

I've been exchanging political‘banter’ with Thanet’s most respected ‘revolutionary’, Cllr Mike Harrison, over on his weblog. Following one of his remarks about the proletariat and I’m sure, the ultimate victory of communism on our small island is yet to come, I thought I would write a few words of my own.

Many of us can still recall those happy days when Margate was twinned with Yalta and our Labour councillors enjoyed the opportunity for fraternal visits to the Black Sea resort, to sample the delights of true socialism by the seaside, helped along with ample quantities of sunshine, vodka and blinys.

It’s not quite the same now of course, because the great socialist experiment failed miserably everywhere it was tried, from Russia to Cambodia to North Korea and even Liverpool, possibly because Karl Marx's strict view of economic determinism contradicted simple human nature.

Just to remind ourselves, In his analysis of the movement of history, ‘Historical Materialism,’ Marx predicted the breakdown of capitalism (as a result of class struggle and the falling rate of profit), and the establishment in time of a communist society, in which class-based human conflict would be overcome. The means of production would be held in the common ownership and used for the common good.

Karl Marx, an occasional Margate resident, was, in places, pretty close to the mark in describing the problems that have left us where we are today, However, he never imagined a stagnating and bloated welfare state in the form that it presently takes around us. His idealistic view of Communism, was one where everyone contributed equally with their labour and not one where people choose not to work and prefer to live-off the generosity of the State. He also failed, quite understandably, to predict the dramatic impact of globalism and rapid automation on the proletariat.

Mike Harrison reminds me that the proletariat don’t like to be lectured on what’s good for them by intellectual academics, a view which could be lifted from the pages of the dissident Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ if I can remember back some thirty years to reading it in the rather depressing Thanet of the 1970s. I would reply however that this backward notion of class-struggle, that still pervades politics in Thanet and has done since I was a boy, simply creates an environment where progress is frustrated because many Labour members still visibly haven’t moved-on from the Thatcher era and the miner’s strike.

Now I happen to believe that challenging the abilities and the record of our politicians, me included, is an important tool in democracy and it constantly on our Thanet blogscene. After all, would you approach a man (or woman) in the street and say here’s £50 million or so for you to spend locally on 600 or so services next year, without asking a few astute questions to see if he was really up to the task?

Local democracy does this all the time but doesn’t ask the important question. So, while it’s the best system we have available, it often totters wildly between administrations and infrequently lives up to the people’s hopes and expectations, simply because some people are given the jobs because it's their turn, party record, a form of pension entitlement or because people rarely ask the simple but really important questionsof the candidates, like "Can you read a balance sheet?"

13 comments:

Will Scobie said...

For the record I am not a believer in communism, and nor is the local Labour group. I am pretty sure that neither a 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' nor 'nationalisation' has ever been discussed at our group meetings.

The Labour party is a democratic socialist party - although we are a broad church so you may be right that we might have some secret commies.

By the way you have doubled posted within this post so I think you need to check it again.

DrM. said...

Thanks Will, I noticed Blogger threw a quick wobbly earlier, possible at the mention of Karl Marx, who knows.

The Labour Party is, I grant you a democratic socialist party but have a chat with a few of your members.. why not start with Ian Driver and then work through Mike and Richard and see where Old Labour and New Labour collide..!

I've had a few years now of my jaw bouncing off the council chamber floor at some of the things I've heard opposite! The 1970s time-warp is really quite worrying at times.. You must have noticed!

Will Scobie said...

You are probably right Simon, but there are different opinions across the Council. For instance if you read Councillor Worrow's blog then he would say there are lots of outdated views on homosexuality within the local Conservative party. Roger Gale's voting record on homosexual rights all but confirms this to be the case! It can be found: http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpid=40447&dmp=826

It makes shocking reading and that is something that makes my jaw hit the floor.

DrM. said...

Will, now that's an interesting question. Society, as one might imagine holds a very broad spectrum of views and we have to be quite careful what we describe as outdated, as within a free society, everyone is entitled to hold their opinions, religious sexual and political as long as these are expressed lawfully.

I'm sure that the Labour Party is really no different to any other, beyond seeing a political opportunity in supporting minority issues.

To be absolutely honest, homosexuality isn't and shouldn't be a political issue here in Thanet as all parties, as does TDC, exercise a proper commitment to diversity. John knows this only too well having discussed this with me before he became a candidate with my support at the time.

For sure, some people may be less enlightened than you or I but Roger Gale enjoys considerable support as a local MP and I really don't believe that his voting record on one subject has any relevance to the future of this council and the worrying hard-left and unionist tendencies on regular display at any council meeting.

Cllr. Mike Harrison said...

I like the doctored picture of Myself so much I am going to swipe it and use it as my Facebook avatar !!
( with your permission of course!)

Interesting that you refer to the rather depressing Thanet of the 1970s. I was here way back then working at Butlins when it was a major presence in the area and even then the first signs of a rather depressing Thanet were emerging thanks in the main to Freddy Laker and his cheap foreign holidays.
It was then the Conservative controlled Margate Borough Councilshould have grasped the nettle and taken swift action to put in place measures to counter this trend. Even then the Government classified Thanet as a 'Depressed Area' and we qualified for extra help.
Insofar as the Old Labour v New Labour goes lets just remind ourselves of whose generation it was that introduced New Labour, yes it was mine! I was a great supporter of John Smith who was a great reformer and it was a sad loss to the party and politics in general when passed away to early.
I may well write more on this later.

DrM. said...

You are most welcome to use it Mike!

Ahh John Smith. I was staying at Kibbutz Hagorsherim in Israel the week the Friends of Israel met to support Tony Blair as the new leader of the Labour party.

Listening in to their conversations around the pool and bar was quite fascinating and made very clear to me the inner workings and influences that controlled New Labour at the time. Follow the money springs to mind.

You see Mike, while you might accuse me of bile and spite, rather like ex-Cllr Nottingham, who was the real expert in political character assassination, I don't have any personal axes to grind, just a lamentable, 'tongue in cheek' sense of humour.

But when it comes to who directs the future of Thanet, I have a strong opinion, much like anyone else and mine is the consequence of watching the constantly interrupting and barracking performance of the Labour members opposite.

So when I say, that based on the evidence of my own senses, I have absolutely no confidence in the abilities of a Labour Group with such narrow horizons to govern Thanet, at such a difficult time, it simply represents an observation much like, 'Day follows night' and perhaps you will all prove me wrong in the New Year!

Happy Christmas!

Tom Clarke said...

The real tragedy is that this is not what the people of Thanet voted for last May. The largest vote went to the Conservatives, but with no overall control.

Perhaps what should have followed was perhaps a coalition, albeit under the leadership of the largest party, but representative at cabinet level of all groups.

That it didn't means that we have had a minority Conservative administration replaced by an even smaller minority Labour one. Hardly democracy and it will end in tears.

Playing games at being inclusive fools no one. The cabinet is all Labour even if they pretend to consult the other parties. Most people in Thanet did not vote for that.

DrM. said...

There's a kind of twisted irony here that one of our Trades Union leaders offered, this year, to sponsor me as a Labour Parliamentary candidate, which says something about the rather confused nature of centre-left politics in this country which is facing somewhat of an identity crisis.

Anonymous said...

There is something very wrong with what is happening on this blog. Don't any of you people work? Do those of us who do have to pay for you army of minor local politicians who have nothing better to do than indulge yourselves in idle banter? No wonder my Council Tax is so high when my services are so average.

DrM. said...

A greater part of your council tax now goes towards paying the public sector pension liability. Of what's left, only a fraction goes towards local services. Government and County Council make up the balance with grants.

Not entirely sure what you think local politicians do. On the most part they receive a pittance in expenses which doesn't reflect the time they have to put in and wish is below the minimum wage.

Many have real jobs too!

Cllr. Mike Harrison said...

For the benefit of Anon 5:17 PM I have done my 50 years at the workplace and am now enjoying a well earned retirement !

DrM. said...

It seems to be the evening for libellous and defamatory comments, one from Retired and two from 'Anonymous' which are in breach my acceptable use policy.

I'm only too aware that if someone made similar remarks about me rather than councillor Harrison and placed them on a Labour weblog, history shows that these would be published with glee and damn the consequences.

So I have no intention of ruining Mike Harrison's Christmas. If he wishes to see these allegations, which in my view are both serious and malicious, I'm quite happy to email them to him on request.

As I wrote earlier, I have no personal animosity towards or indeed axe to grind with any opposition politician and readers may recall that I supported a 'Blogging protocol' derided by the Labour Group, which was intended to offer guidance for exactly this kind of circumstance.

Wolfie Smith said...

Thanet should attain the status of the Isle of Man, tax haven and independent from England. That way investment would flood in, our own airport, seaport, industrial parks and our coastline. Instead we're stitched up by London with their cast off social problems and a lack of acknowledging our depressed state by the setting of business rates far too high. Independence for Thanet!